Vet Immunol Immunopathol 2007 Apr 2;116(3-4):163-71. Epub 2007 Feb 2.
Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh, Ashworth Laboratories, King's Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JF, Scotland, UK.
Peyer's patches (PPs) are the most probable sites of intestinal uptake of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) agent. The amount of PP tissue varies considerably between different age groups of individuals, and whether this variation is related to susceptibility to TSE infection raises an intriguing possibility. The purpose of this study was to determine the surface area of PP tissue and the number of associated lymphoid follicles in different age groups of Neuropathogenesis Unit (NPU) Cheviot sheep. Terminal ilea were obtained from 33 sheep of different ages. Samples of ileal tissue were collected for immunocytochemistry and immunolabelled for prion protein (PrP). Specimens were then fixed in acetic acid, stained with methylene blue and transilluminated. Image analysis software was used to calculate the area of intestinal and PP tissue. The number of associated lymphoid follicles was determined using a dissecting microscope. Results showed a marked fall in surface area of PP tissue and lymphoid follicle density around puberty (about 8-9 months of age in NPU Cheviot sheep) and both measures remained low throughout adulthood. Using the Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, r(s), these two measures were found to be closely correlated (r(s)=0.899, n=33, P<0.0001). There was also a significant (negative) correlation between age and the two respective measures (surface area of PP tissue versus age, r(s)=-0.879 (n=33, P<0.0001); lymphoid follicle density versus age r(s)=-0.943 (n=33, P<0.0001). Immunolabelling for PrP was observed primarily in the light zone of lymphoid follicles. Results obtained from this study are useful for future oral pathogenesis studies of the NPU Cheviot flock. They may also offer a possible biological explanation for the apparent age-susceptibility relationship observed in natural cases of TSEs and might help to explain the young age-distribution of cases.